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Universal raises multi-day pass prices in advance of Harry Potter

By Robert Niles
Published: January 11, 2010 at 12:45 PM
I suppose that this shouldn't come as a surprise, but Universal Orlando has raised the price on its $99 two-park, seven-day pass to $170, a nearly 72 percent increase.

The increase is part of a restructuring of Universal Orlando's theme park tickets, to what the resort is now calling Universal's Select. Much like Walt Disney World's "Magic Your Way" ticket packages, the new pricing structure is designed to get people to opt for longer stays at the resort: The price per day decreases the more days you buy.

Of course, the old online-only $99 deal might have been the best deal going in Orlando. But at that price, one could argue that it was *too* cheap - many folks bought the pass and used it only for a day or two, as it was cheaper than buying a one-day, two-park Universal Orlando pass at the gate, and the same price as buying it online. Charging more might convince some visitors to spend more time at the parks, to "get back the value" from their purchase.

Now, Universal charges between $79 for a one-day, one-park ticket and $170 for a seven-day, two-park ticket. (Those are adult prices. Prices for kids ages 3-9 run $10-$20 less.)

These tickets also expire within 14 days of first use, a restriction that prevents visitors from buying tickets now for use on future vacations. (The old $99, seven-day ticket expired after seven days, but some other unused Universal tickets did not expire.)

The changes come just in time for the opening of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter this spring. Will this price increase reduce the number of fans slamming the park for its opening? Is it a smart move by Universal to increase revenue at the one park almost certain to post at attendance gain this year? Neither, or both?

Let's hear your thoughts, in the comments.

Readers' Opinions

From Jack Curley on January 11, 2010 at 1:05 PM
I think this is a good way to make sure that all of the people who come to IoA to see Potterland get to visit Disney, too.
From Manny Barron on January 11, 2010 at 2:29 PM
Wow thats a might price increase. I was expecting a price increase for the 99 dollar ticket but $70! That ticket was by far the best theme park value in Orlando. As for slowing down the amount of visitors entering the parks(especially IOA) don't count on it, sure won't stop me.
From Brian Emery on January 11, 2010 at 1:23 PM
They might be shooting themselves in the foot with that much of an increase.

I wonder if the Orlando Flex ticket will also go up because of this.

From 83.87.145.8 on January 11, 2010 at 1:50 PM
I have bought this product twice since it introduction. It was the best value for foreign visitors who wanted spread a lot of universal over a couple of days.

This way I won't spend any Money at Universal during my spring trip. I wonder how many people will do the same.

From 75.6.31.65 on January 11, 2010 at 2:07 PM
I think it will be even longer now for our kids to go to Universal! Not spending that much.
From Derek Potter on January 11, 2010 at 3:42 PM
I'll ask this question. Is there 7 days worth of things to do at Universal? Now I'll answer the question....no there isn't. There's enough to cover about 3 full days, even at a fairly leisurely pace. The people know this, which is why they jumped on the $99 dollar seven day pass. It was a really really good price for those wanting the whole Universal experience. Universal on the other hand, was coming up short because they were losing money on both ends. They were only getting a couple days worth of in-park spending by giving the discount, because people only used it for a couple days and then left. Not only did they not get the in park spending, they were losing money on the admission end as well. It's like a comp at a casino. They'll give you the room if you throw money around. If you don't throw money around, then you have to pay for the room.

It makes sense for them to raise the price, although I think that a $70 increase is a bit high. Universal remains a 3 day destination. Regardless of it's significance, Harry Potter is not an expansion, it's a renovation. The hot new ticket in town? yeah, but the economy is still volatile, and people are still watching their money. I don't think that the $170 price will get people to stay longer. What I think is that people will spend the same amount of time in the park and they will spend less in the park. I would have called it at $140 or even $150 so that my customers had a little more money in their pocket to enjoy their day. People aren't as happy when they have to watch their money inside the park, and more people than ever are watching their money these days.

From Robert Niles on January 11, 2010 at 3:46 PM
As much as I hate to say this, I think that Universal had to eliminate the $99 deal in order to preserve its pricing structure. That deal not only made a joke of all other ticket options Universal offered, I am sure it elicited some ill will from people who bought at the front gate, only to learn about the deal later.

Plus, the deal made it difficult for Universal to forecast daily attendance based on ticket purchases. The new structure gives Universal a much more definitive look at its near-term attendance. When someone activates one of these three-day tickets, say, Universal can be pretty sure that they are coming back twice in the next 14 days.

Before, Universal had no solid way to know if someone using the $99 ticket would be back six times, or not at all, within the next week.

From Robert Niles on January 11, 2010 at 5:17 PM
The three-day, two-park ticket is $140, about $47 a day. Not a bad price, but not a great one either.

(Personally, I think $40 is the over/under on whether you're getting a great deal on a one-day top-20 theme park ticket. Under $50 is a good deal. More than that and either you're not really trying, or the park is stiffing you on deals.)

From Larry Zimmerman on January 11, 2010 at 6:44 PM
I agree with other posters who state that Universal Studios really only rate a two day visit. That makes the $170 ticket $85 bucks a day. Not a good deal even by Disney standards.
From 75.179.157.92 on January 11, 2010 at 6:53 PM
I think the new price is too big of an increase and too expensive for what you get. I agree that you can cover everything in both parks in 2-3 days. I try to compare this to the cost of our local park, King's Island, and the cost is very inflated for Universal. We pay anywhere from $65 to $85 for a season gold pass depending on when you buy it, and it includes free parking for the year. While King's Island is a seasonal park, it is open from March thru November, much longer than the 7 days you get at Universal.

I think it is crazy to raise the rates that high, especially in this economy. If they added admission to some other parks like Sea World, Aquatica, or Wet and Wild, then maybe there would be added value to be captured by the non Disney parks. When we visit Orlando it is either all Disney, or all the other parks. As the price for the extra days is reduced for extra days, it makes sense to stay with one park or park package. At $170 for two days of entertainment at Universal, I think I would be more inclined to spend my time at Disney, or other attractions. I think the price increase will make people think twice about including Universal in their theme park plans when they want to visit other parks during their day.

From 99.242.93.129 on January 11, 2010 at 7:14 PM
Our family and friends were planing on coming to the park, I was preparing to purchase online and noticed the drastic price increase.We will be looking elsewhere as it is still the same old park!!!!
From Rod Whitenack on January 11, 2010 at 7:18 PM
As the lawyer in "Jurassic Park" says, "We can charge whatever we want; A thousand dollars a day? Two thousand dollars a day? And people will pay it." When John Hammond tells him his park is not only for the super rich, he responds, "Oh sure, we'll have a coupon day." For the first year or so only, they can charge whatever they want and people will pay it. They would pay it only to visit Hogwarts even if all the other attractions weren't even included, but this won't last very long. Universal is going to take advantage of that while they can.
From Jason Read on January 11, 2010 at 8:11 PM
I'm willing to pay extra to see an amazing new attraction. $170 (and I'll probably visit 3-4 days) is a absolute bargain.

Compare that to shows in Vegas or NYC. $115 for 2.5 hours.

I will be going (and staying at Portofino!) hope to see y'all there.

Absolute worst case-- the lines are shorter for me.

From Joshua Counsil on January 11, 2010 at 9:35 PM
"Of course, the old online-only $99 deal might have been the best deal going in Orlando. But at that price, one could argue that it was *too* cheap - many folks bought the pass and used it only for a day or two, as it was cheaper than buying a one-day, two-park Universal Orlando pass at the gate, and the same price as buying it online. Charging more might convince some visitors to spend more time at the parks, to "get back the value" from their purchase."

Excellent point. My friends, family, and I have always opted for the $99 ticket, even if we did not necessarily have a second day planned at Universal. We bought it just in case. With this new pricing scheme, however, I would definitely plan on at least two full days at Universal, and probably three.

I hate to play the moderate fence sitter, but on the other hand, a 70% increase in price seems ridiculous. Frankly, if I was visiting Orlando in 2010, I would not plan on visiting Islands of Adventure, both for the immense crowds this should draw and for the cost of admission. The park is getting really dilapidated - everything needs a fresh coat of paint at the very least. Paying that much extra to experience, basically, one new ride and some new scenery seems ridiculous.

From Sylvain Comeau on January 11, 2010 at 9:47 PM
Their previous online price was a steal, so of course they had to raise it. However, this is a clueless price increase; c'mon, 72%? That's way too radical a jump, particularly when few people will want to spend 7 day to visit two parks. The only real advantage to a 7 day pass is flexibility; you don't have to time your visits on consecutive days.

The three day/ two park pass is still a good deal, though. Thanks to Harry Potter, I think people are more likely to stay one more day than they normally would. For me that means 2-3 days instead of 1-2.

I predict that Universal will drop the price on that 7 day pass pretty soon, once they realize their mistake.

From Anthony Murphy on January 11, 2010 at 9:53 PM
Is Harry Potter going to bring in that much crowds?

I mean, I understand that they need to raise prices, but in time for Harry Potter? Has a park raised prices because of this before!

From 64.12.116.70 on January 12, 2010 at 6:44 AM
Now when I take my kids next week I will only buy the one-day pass instead of the $99 deal I was planning on. That means we will spend less time in the park and spend less on food and other things there. So the change will mean less profit from us...
From Tiffany Alfonso on January 12, 2010 at 7:15 AM
Hmmmmm...doesn't apply much to me - I and Muetti bought our Annual Power Passes recently and we alternate UO with Disney, so what the heck?
From Brian Emery on January 12, 2010 at 8:12 AM
We can all understand they have to recoup some $$ from Harry P but whenever you raise something by over 70% you are taking a chance at consumer backlash..

I bet many folks will only buy a one day pass – go to IOA for most of that day, spend about two hours at USF to hit Mummy, Rip Ride and Simpsons…


Again what about the Orlando Flex Pass, will this have to be increased…?

From Melissa Faulkner on January 12, 2010 at 11:07 AM
I bought the $99 passes for my family as a Christmas present. We are staying at the Royal Pacific for 1 night and plan on doing both parks in 2 days. With front of the line access we should be able to do it it pretty efficiently especially since we're going middle of July, front of line access helps tremendously with that. Anyway, I am SO glad I bought the tickets in December instead of waiting. There is no way I'd pay $170 seeing as we will only be there for 2 days.
From 135.196.99.180 on January 12, 2010 at 12:33 PM
Why are there so many comments to the effect of "Universal is only a 2 day destination and that's not worth $170."

An adult 2-day ticket is only $109 (or $134 with park hopping).

Yes, they raised the ridiculously cheap online advance purchase 7-day hopper from $99 to $170, but they also have cheaper 1, 2, 3 ,4 5 and 6 day tickets and those are the tickets most people will be getting.

The 2-4 day tickets seem VERY competitive with Disney.

If someone really wants a 7-day ticket to Universal, they're probably better off looking at a seasonal annual pass for about the same price.

From Robert Niles on January 12, 2010 at 12:46 PM
*Great* point, raising another problem with the old 7-day special (from Universal's perspective): Now people are so trained to look for that 7-day deal that they overlook the 2-day deals, which used to be worse than the 7-day ticket but now are better.

At some point, Universal's going to have to support this new structure with some ads explaining it - and explaining why Universal thinks it is a better deal than Disney.

From Derek Potter on January 12, 2010 at 3:25 PM
The cost of the 7 day pass only makes the 3 day 2 park pass for $140 more attractive. If that's what they were trying to accomplish, then they've done it. Not the greatest deal in the world, but not bad either. I'd call it a fair price by Orlando standards, but I would still have given them 7 days for that price.

I'd go for the 3 day pass if I were visiting Universal. The rest of my vacation would be spent either at the beach or visiting another park. While paying that price though, the thought of being able to get a Cedar Fair Platinum Pass for $160 would be crossing my mind. One from Ohio can use that one a lot.

From 67.8.63.61 on January 12, 2010 at 9:49 PM
If you bought the 7-day ticket in the past and just spent one day at each park, you only have to pay $10 more now or $5 more per day. Not that big of a deal, you just lose the park hopper option that the 7 day ticket provided. To me, I think the biggest value of having the park hopper option at a disney park would be to see fireworks and b/c another park is open later. Universal closes earlier than disney (I think except for animal kingdom) and doesn't have firewrks so I think the park hopper loses some value there.
From 70.119.37.184 on January 15, 2010 at 8:41 AM
Derrick hit it on the head. Universal Florida is not a 7 day vacation, period! You can do everything at a snail's pace in three days MAX with the exception of the high volume tourist season.

No way in hell would I pay that kind of money for USF. To think they would try to change their pricing structure to meet Disney's is a joke. You could spend a week at Disney and only hit the tip of the iceburg of things you can experience.

Spend a week at USF and by day 4 you are going to see a movie on site or taking a cab off site.

This move took a lot of balls, but no brains.

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